Considering a Child’s Best Interest
One of the biggest issues in a divorce case involves the parties’ rights and responsibilities regarding custody over a minor child. A parent has a fundamental right to raise their children as they see fit, along with a corresponding duty to care for them. However, child custody determinations aren’t focused on a parent’s right and authority to raise their child. Instead, issues regarding custody are resolved with the minor child’s best interests in mind.
Courts are required to determine what custody arrangement best preserves and promotes a child’s interests. As a result, a court will only consider a parent’s interests in a custody arrangement as a function of protecting their minor child’s welfare.
In general, the law recognizes that a child has a significant interest in maintaining a healthy relationship with both of their parents. As a result, many courts will presume that divorcing parents should have a shared custody arrangement. A court must evaluate the circumstances of each case and account for factors that justify deviation from shared custody.
When determining child custody issues, a court will consider factors such as:
- Each party’s capacity to provide the child with love and affection
- The financial resources of each party
- The respective physical and mental conditions of the parties
- The child’s preference
- A party’s ability to provide the child with a stable living environment
If the judge can help it, they will try to order shared custody of a minor child. Of course, shared custody arrangements depend on whether a parent can feasibly stick to a shared custody schedule. An important factor regarding custody of a minor child involves the geographic distance between the parents.
A child has an interest in growing up in a stable and familiar environment. As a result, a court is more inclined to award primary custody to the parent who can provide such an environment, if shared custody is not feasible.
Modifications and Relocations
When a court issues a final divorce decree, it also makes a final order regarding child custody. A final custody order accounts for the circumstances relevant at the time the court issued the order. However, circumstances can change over time and render the terms of a custody order inapplicable. For example, if a parent is compelled to relocate to a different county or state due to employment requirements, such a move can render make compliance with a final custody order nearly impossible.
A court's final orders for divorce can be modified upon a showing that a change in circumstances justifies modifying the terms of the court’s orders. A change in circumstances that warrants modifying a custody order can result when an underlying assumption upon which the court issued its custody orders no longer applies.
For example, an order for shared custody of a child may assume that both parents are capable of alternating custody of their child every other week. However, if a parent has to move to a different area, adding two hours of commuting time to school, the court may have reason to alter the terms of its initial custody orders.
Modification of a custody order still requires the court to evaluate factors affecting the child’s best interests. A parent’s relocation to a distant city can make a shared custody arrangement less favorable to a child’s best interest than arrangement where one parent has sole custody of the child while the other gets limited visitation rights.
When a parent moves to a different location, a court may have to reconsider the benefits of sole custody. If one parent lives closer to where the child has been going to school, a court may consider that favorable to sustaining a familiar and stable environment for the child. Conversely, if the relocating parent received a raise and is moving to a safer city with better educational opportunities, a court might award them sole custody.
Ask One of Our Experienced Attorneys at Hope Law Firm for Legal Advice
One of the most emotionally charged aspects of getting a divorce involves figuring out which parent a minor child should live with. Parents generally don’t want to jeopardize their time with their children. To protect your custodial rights as a parent, you should consult a skilled attorney from Hope Law Firm. We are committed to finding a just and favorable resolution to family law disputes that promote you and your child’s legal rights and interests.
Contact Hope Law Firm at (515) 298-5056 to schedule a consultation with a member of our distinguished legal team.